Art for Art’s Sake

I was just about to write about “For the Love of the Art or the Love of the Utility?” (stay tuned for that), when I see the following Facebook post from my husband with an accompanying video. I’m going to share his post first because he says several things very much related to my thoughts this morning and what I was wanting to write about. And then I’ll get to writing the little bit he’s left me to say. (By the way, the younger of the two people that he speaks of in paragraph 6 is our son. More about that in my coming post.)


This jibes with research on rationality tests, where people with high IQs score only slightly better on average than those with lower IQs. It’s not a matter of one’s processing speed, but of one’s willingness to apply effort to the problem at hand.

High-IQ people still have to CARE. The caring is the CORE need. And if you frame somebody’s life—anybody’s life—as being about being gifted/talented, you’re sending a signal that that’s more important than their willingness to TRY.

And think about the danger of taking a view that everything in life is about ME and about being praised/noticed/acknowledged, or about ME being sharp/keep/alert/smart/gifted/talented. This tends to distract people from the beauty of the things being learned or of the solutions being devised.

It’s not a fulfilling/rewarding way of life, and the small lift one gets from such praise/attention can either be deflating to some (compared to appreciating the beauty of the non-me thing we were working on), but it can also become addictive, causing a constant drive to get more and more of it.

But when people can be outward-focused, whether it’s about appreciating the complexity of a problem to be solved or about the beauty of a book or a piece of music they’re working on, that’s such a different psychological exercise than the me-focused talk about how smart I am.

I’ll never forget seeing two very special geniuses sit at a table discussing high-end math one day. Both were fascinated with the subject matter and how it works. They were 30 years apart in age, and both were quite energized in the talk. Neither had anything to prove, nor any position of rank to establish with the other. No, it was just a genuine fellowship of two math-loving people. And because of this quality, they are two of my dearest life-long friends. (I know I can trust them to decouple from self in order to consider something outside of themselves honestly, rationally, and responsibly. And that means that I can pretty much talk with them about anything—whereas not just anybody would be trustworthy and useful in such a talk.)

This video will really make me think about how I praise my students and friends. I do have some friends who are highly capable people, and who are probably fighting inner “voices” that say otherwise. With those, I definitely tell them that they’re capable, because it’s the truth and they need help countering the voices. But it’s the TRYING that’s the real goal. And the students that can decouple from the voices long enough to do the trying—they get to participate in the beauty of the art (or the subject), and are rewarded by the participation itself.

It all brings to mind so much of the discussion of Narcissus I’ve been paying attention to for the last year or two.

Is there nothing in this world that may be appreciated for what it is, without having to stop and focus on SELF, and how great we are???

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